Reunion Weekend

Autumn is definitely my favorite time of the year. It always makes me feel like driving.

Fortunately for me, this weekend, I get my chance to go on the road. And I get to go to one of my favorite places - Houghton.

It's my ten-year college reunion. There was a time in my life that I couldn't imagine getting to this point. Ten years out of college? Not possible! But, here it is, and I'm excited!

A larger number of my classmates than I expected are going to be there and it will be so great to see everyone together on campus. Even with all the changes on campus that have taken place over the past ten years, it's still a completely familiar place.

It will be interesting and fun to see my friends and roommates wandering about with their spouses and children in a place where we were once so young and irresponsible.

I must remember to take my camera along.

The Cycle of Life - BLURG!

Does anyone else feel like a stupid jerk when you realize that half the reason you're in a slump is because of stupid, stupid hormones? Then, one day, you start to feel better. THEN you realize that it's a certain day of the month. THEN you bang your head into your desk because you've been whining and whining and whining about being in a slump and you suddenly realize that All. The. Negative. Feelings. (or almost all of them) were related to the fact that you are a woman with a regular and sometimes annoying hormonal cycle. The only downside of running has been the increased intensity and regularity of the hormone cycle!!!

Now I'm even whining about being a woman with a menstrual cycle. I'm going to stop right there and move on to the announcement that my outlook seems to be improving. Yesterday, I even felt like running. The moment was fleeting and didn't lead to any actual running but it was encouraging and led to all sorts of other positive thoughts.

This morning, I saw this picture on Facebook:
Posted by Run the Edge, credited back to Maratono do Rio
And it reminded me of how I felt the first time I ran three miles, then first time I crossed the finish line of a race, the first time I was injured from running, the first time I completed a half marathon... It reminded me of the feeling of accomplishment that I've had after almost every run ever. For the first time in a couple of months, I'm actually looking forward to my next run: 6 miles on Saturday!

Now, the challenge is to find a way to remind myself of what's really going on the next time I'm all Debbie Downer about life. Any tips?

I Have Come to a Decision

I don't hate running but I am in a slump.

I've been thinking about all the races I'm signed up for over the next several weeks and came to a decision. They are all going to be for fun. As long as I have a good time and finish, I will be happy. If I manage to take some pictures along the way, even better!

I am not going to try for a personal record at any of them. I won't try to go slower than I have before but I'm not going to push myself to be faster either. It would be fun to surprise myself with a great time at any or all of them but I'm not going to live with that hanging over me.

In July 2012, something prompted me to begin exercising every day. For a while, I was working out morning and evening six days a week. Right now, I don't feel that drive but I guess that just means I need to suck it up and keep moving.

I am going to keep running but I'm going to cut back on the distances and be more intentional about other physical activities that I enjoy so that gearing up for races again when late winter rolls around is something to look forward to rather than dread.

Call me crazy but I think this plan might actually work.

There Was This One Time

I lived in Philly and worked as a live-in nanny for three kids. I convinced their parents that it made sense to buy a family pass to the zoo. The kids and I went for several trips together.

Sometimes, I would go to the zoo to hang out by myself or I would take a friend along because the family pass allowed guests. We could also do almost all of the zoo activities without having to pay extra, including riding horses and camels and going up in a weather balloon.

But my favorite part was getting pictures of the animals. Sometimes, I still miss them.

Letting Off the Gas

This morning, I went for a run. Hal's plan had 10 miles on it.

I went to the BWI Airport Trail. It's my standard 10 mile loop. I can't remember the last time I ran it. Since I did my race at the beginning of the month, even two miles has been a serious challenge.

That's not to say I haven't enjoyed some of my runs but I'm just. so. tired.

Today, the planned 10 turned into 5. I could have kept going, slogged around the whole loop, but I am trying not to let running become a burden, something I hate and never want to do again.

The thing that worries me, though, is that I have five races coming up in the next four weeks, three of which are on the same weekend and the longest and last of which is a half marathon on a hilly course.

I just looked up the time limit for said half marathon; the course will be open for four hours. I shouldn't need all that time but, in case I do, I'm glad it's available.

During today's run, I was thinking about my barely year-old running habit. For a while, I felt like I was quickly moving toward my goals. I was steadily pressing down on the gas pedal and gaining momentum as I went.

I'm not sure exactly when I started to let off the gas but it seems like almost all of that momentum has been lost. I have brilliant moments but my consistency is off, my aerobic capacity is for crap, my strength and cross training have almost completely fallen by the wayside.

And no matter what accountability practice I decide to enact, I just keep falling off the wagon. Wait, that makes it sound as if I ever really got all the way back on. For the most part, it seems like I'm not even making it all the way up into the seat before I'm flat on my face in the middle of the road again.

I'm tempted to apologize for bumming people out but this is real, friends. I have goals but I have gotten stuck in this place where I can't even imagine accomplishing them. There are so many first steps to be taken that I don't even know where to start anymore.

I know. I get it. You're going to tell me to stop being so hard on myself. That's very nice of you but please realize I am not nearly as hard on myself as you may think.

The problem is that I let myself make excuses for everything. Almost any reason I can find to go easy on myself, I accept it. There has to come a point where even I don't find that acceptable anymore.

Slumpity slump slump. Not sure how to dig myself out of this slough of despond. Do you have any ideas that I haven't already seen in Runner's World 15 times?

Do I Hate Running?

I'm beginning to worry that I do.


I feel tired even thinking about going for a run.

Like right now.

Ten miles scheduled for tomorrow.


I don't have anything else to say.

There will be no inspirational turnaround statement at the end of this post.

Maybe it will be better tomorrow.

Marathon Plans

So, I'm a nerd and my nerdiness has a tendency to overflow into all aspects of my life. Other people might just enjoy a hobby or sport or whatever... but I have to research them. I love reading about it all, looking over diagrams, and learning everything I can.

Right now, I'm in the midst of my running thing. I'm starting to look into the best training plan for the marathon I want to do next summer.

I've been finding that a lot of the typical running advice is contradicted in training plans. The most glaring example of this is the weekend long run. Coaches and magazines and websites and seasoned runners will say that the weekend long run should be only 25-30% of a runner's mileage for the week. Then, the plans they put together have long runs that consist of 50% or more of weekly mileage. URGH!

Anyway, I have been hearing about Hanson's Marathon Method and decided to read it. I'm getting into it. Nothing to report yet but I'm sure I'll geek out about it as I read.

206 Miles

At the beginning of the year, I made a goal to run 750 miles in 2013. When I set the goal, I knew it would stretch me but also felt confident that I'd be able to reach it. By the end of June, when I ran 98 miles in the course of one month, I even began to think that I'd bust through my goal with no problem. Then came July and August and heat and humidity and overtraining.

Thankfully, I'm still on track to meet my goal by running just 59 miles a month over the next three months.

Holy crap! How did this happen?

That's all I have to say. I will leave you with a quote from a very famous smart guy.

Are you working on any particular goals right now? How are they going so far?

Apologizing to My Food

There are some foods that, after I eat them, I feel like I should apologize to real food. The fact that they are even called "food" is insulting to the real deal. These items may have come from the by-products of something that could be considered food but, but the time I am shoving them into my mouth by the fistful, they have been so processed that they barely have a family resemblance to the plant or animal from which they originated. In fact, these somewhat edible items could be considered the great-great-great-grandchildren of food. Of course, somewhere in the lineage, there were also several ill-advised marriages with dyes and artificial flavors and maybe some plastic.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been making an effort not to eat fast food but I'm beginning to realize there are plenty of other "foods" I buy and keep in the house that may be even worse than some of the choices I make at McDonald's or Taco Bell.

Two from today were a Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Tart (which doesn't taste like cinnamon at all) and some Cheetos Puffs.

I could have eaten the entire bag by myself. They say they're made with real cheese!
Look, the package even says they're a good source of 7 VITAMINS AND MINERALS!!!
 Last week, I committed to four things:
  1. at least one salad per day (CHECK! except for Friday),
  2. preparing all my own meals, except for a couple planned outings (CHECK!),
  3. continuing to drink no more than one soda per day (CHECK! - handled, going off the list)
  4. not eating when I'm confusing bored for hungry (maybe not so much check...)
For this coming week, I will commit to:
  1. preparing my own meals except for three planned outings,
  2. avoiding "foods" that make me want to apologize to real food, whether in restaurants or the grocery store, and
  3. choosing at least two new, healthier recipes to make next week.
Yay food! It's good stuff and I'd like to eat more of it rather than constantly snarfing its misbehaving distant relatives.

Official Race Recap: 9/11 Heroes Run Edition

I ran a the 9/11 Heroes Run yesterday morning in Arlington, Virginia. Half of the reason I chose to run this race is that several awesome people I know are involved with the Travis Manion Foundation, for which these races are a fundraiser, and they organized the event. The other half of the reason was because I knew I had a place to stay very close to the start line, though not as close as I originally thought.

I drove down to Arlington on Friday evening to crash at my friend Emily's house. Though I've been there a number of times, I got lost-ish. Tired and a little annoyed when I got to her place, I zipped into a parking spot, went up to her apartment to get the parking pass, and put it in my window.

Emily had just gotten home, so we chatted for a bit, during which time I realized that the race start was not within easy walking distance. Womp womp womp... I would have to drive to the start or go for a three-mile warm up. Ha!

Anyway, I got up the next morning just before 7, donned my running duds, and headed to my car. It wasn't where I left it. I hit my unlock button just to be sure I hadn't missed it, then ever so calmly walked back to Emily's apartment. Moral of the story: because I parked in space A instead of the space just to the left of it, my car was towed and I had to pay $125 to get it back.

Fortunately for everyone, Emily didn't need her car that day even though she had class, so we were able to reserve the pleasure of retrieving my Chevy for the afternoon and I headed off to my race only twenty minutes later than planned.

I got to the race, easily found parking, and got my packet in no time. Everything was well-organized and easily accessible. There wasn't a lot of swag but, honestly, I'd rather have less than get a bunch of junk I'm going to toss. I jogged to my car to drop off the stuff I didn't want to carry and then jogged back to the start line. Then I proceeded to hold my friends' sleeping four-week old daughter until it was time to fasten her into the stroller for her first race. It was adorable. Her parents even bought her a race number.

Just before the start, they announced that the distance was at least .1 miles short of a 5k, so when MK asked me to pace her for her first run post-baby, I decided to give it a go. I usually run alone and MK is sort of a fit beast, but I figured she'd be pushing a stroller, so I'd be able to keep up. :) We trotted along, chatting the whole time, and laid down the first mile in 10:10. I haven't done a 10-minute mile for a couple months(!) and hardly any miles at all have left me with the breath to carry on a conversation. It was such an incredible feeling! Now I know that summer miles bring fall smiles.

The route and elevation profile along with our time and paces. I kicked it at the end!
We ran the first half of the race in the 9:30-10:30 minute/mile range. Then we hit the Arlington Ridge Road hill. It's not very steep but it is almost a mile long. As we went, I let MK decide whether we would walk or run. Despite the fact that she was 4 weeks postpartum and pushing a stroller, I probably would have walked more without her there (more evidence that I should get a running partner/group). Around the middle of the hill, when we were contemplating another walk break, someone was blasting the Rocky theme from their house, so we kept going a little while longer. Our second mile, because of the hill was 12:41.

As we crested the hill and turned our last corner, there was a long, not-too-steep downhill. I looked at MK and said, "I'm gonna let it out now. See you at the finish!" She wished me well as I bounded down the hill.

For the next half mile, I sped along at somewhere around an 8:15 minute/mile. Yay downhill! As the road flattened out and headed back up a little bump, I took a very brief walk break and then started running again, boosted by the sight and sound of several race volunteers who were loudly bellowing every time someone ran past.

As I approached the finish, there was a woman to my left who had run the entire race steadily. As I approached her, she started speeding up but I could tell it was costing her a lot. I checked myself and thought, "I could definitely go faster than this!" and blew past her, sprinting to the finish. Several folks I knew were right across the line so there were plenty of high fives and congratulations. My chip time was 32:24. After quickly grabbing some water, I cheered MK and baby across the line at 33:02. What a great time for someone who just had a baby!

Race buddies squinting into the sun after a good run

I commented to MK's husband, who is quite the long-distance runner/triathlete/all-around-awesome person, that it was nice to be finished running after half an hour instead of just getting started...

I stuck around for the awards because there was a cheap breakfast buffet for all the runners and a raffle you could only win if you were present. There weren't a lot of places to sit, so I sat at a table with a stranger and made a new friend, who just happened to have won her age group! The fun thing about runners is that we always have something to chat about, so I don't feel as intimidated by trying to start conversations.

What a great day for a race and an excellently planned and executed event! If I'm around next year, I would definitely do it again.

I have three more 5k's this fall. They are all hilly but I'm sort of hoping I might be able to get a sub-30 before all is said and done. I definitely had more to give during this event, so I'm thinking if I find someone to pace with, I might be able to do it. If not, maybe I'll get it at a Turkey Trot.

Weigh-In Wednesday

No, I'm not going to start regaling you with the ups and downs of the scale each Wednesday. In fact, I'm not even going to tell you the number I saw on the scale today. Though, I will tell you that it was headed in the direction I prefer and that was reassuring since I'm making a concerted effort to eat more healthily.

Actually, I wanted to write about something that happened after I weighed myself.

I wasn't dreading the scale, as I know some people do. In fact, I felt victorious that I'd remembered to step on it at all.

When I stepped off, I was standing in front of the large mirror in our bathroom. As I have a tendency to do, I was examining the bits of myself I might like to change and admiring the bits of which I'm most proud.

Then I looked up and was staring directly into my own eyes. For just a moment, it was as if I was looking at myself in the way I observe others rather than with the hyper-critical gaze I usually reserve for my self.

And, as I do when I meet others' eyes, I smiled. Then, as often happens when others smile back, my grin broadened. Then, I started laughing as it sunk in that I was having this pleasant interaction with my own reflection.

What better way to start the day than looking at yourself and thinking, "She looks friendly. I'd certainly like to spend some time getting to know that woman"?

It's my intention to cultivate a more friendly relationship with myself. Hopefully, it will include many more instances of laughing with myself in the mirror.

Have you ever had an unself-conscious encounter with yourself? I'd love to hear about it.
How have you made peace with the bits you might like to change?

In Case You Care About What I Eat

So, a few weeks ago, I made some commitments about my eating:
  1. to buy sufficient salad fixings for at least one meal per day,
  2. to not eat any fast food, and
  3. to not drink more than one soda per day.
I said I'd report back on September 2 but I didn't because I forgot. Just like I forgot that I was going to weigh myself every Wednesday until two Wednesdays had passed.

Well, here's my report, then. Since August 26, when my commitment went into effect:
  1. I have made and eaten salads on all but 4 days.
  2. I didn't eat fast food between August 26 and August 31. I had Taco Bell after my big race (flouting the importance of quality recovery food) and the week of September 2-8, I ate fast food almost every day.
  3. When I don't eat out, I don't drink soda. So, since August 26, I've only had more than one soda in a given day twice. One of those incidents was at a restaurant where I automatically said "yes" when asked if I wanted a refill.
For this week (9/9-15/2013), I've committed to
  1. at least one salad per day (I'm making them a few days ahead in mason jars),
  2. preparing all my own meals, except for a couple planned outings,
  3. continuing to drink no more than one soda per day, and
  4. not eating when I'm confusing bored for hungry.
Lists are fun! I will check in again about food on 9/16.

My Legs Are Coming Back

Today's run was my second since the 18.12 Challenge. Saturday's 1.5 was pretty grueling. 3.38 today left me feeling tired but not completely exhausted. I'm not saying I broke any records. In fact, I was slow. The point is that I was glad to get out there and it felt good to do it.

My roommate was running 6 and I had to wait for her to drive me home, so I did some push-ups to fill the time. Go me!

I had a good eating day, too. The pop tart around 3 p.m. wasn't a great choice but it was the only blip in a day of healthy (and delicious!) choices. Dinner was the topper: chicken breast, cauliflower, half an avocado, and plenty of verde salsa. The avocado was better than butter on the veg.

My left shin is a little achy - really not sure why that is but I'm not going to worry about that unless it gets worse or continues for more than a week.

I ordered Hansons Marathon Method through Interlibrary Loan today. Woot for not paying for books before I get to read them! I'm beginning the search for a marathon plan to follow. Since the marathon I'm hoping to do isn't until next July, I've got plenty of time to do some research.

Which plan did you use for your first marathon? Subsequent races?
How long do you give yourself to recover from a big race? What does your recovery look like?

Silent Sunday

I used to have my tongue pierced. Yeah, I've been awesome for a long time. I was also in Tanzania when this picture was taken. Even more awesome points for me!

One and a Half Miles

This morning, around 9:40, I set off for a run. It was my first since being utterly beaten up by the 18.12 Challenge on Sunday.

My pace wasn't terrible but I was exhausted by the time I'd finished 1.5 miles. For the past six months or so, I wouldn't have even gotten my running clothes on for less than 2 miles and 3 was more likely. But, today, I put on my clothes, ran for twenty minutes, and called it quits.

And - this is important - I'm okay with that.

Since Wednesday, I have been telling myself, "Today is the day you'll go for a run." However, since Tuesday, I've been dealing with pains in various body parts; a headache that lasted three days, made me nauseated when I was upright, and caused me to miss a day of work; and plain old exhaustion.

And, yet, the wonder is that I still want to go running. That is the victory I can claim. It was hard, I felt terrible, and I have no intention of quitting.

I've learned a lot over the past week about how racing long distances in heat and humidity affects my body, how training poorly impacts race day results, and how prioritizing rest and recovery after a race is a sign of intelligence, not frailty.

Most importantly, I've learned that running is a part of who I am and I am going to use what I've learned to do it better next time.

I Love Other Things

Especially if you are a new reader (Welcome, btw!), you may find this hard to believe but I love to do and talk about things other than running. This weekend, while I was in northern NY for my longest run ever, I also got down to the last pages in my current journal - scribbling my thoughts is therapeutic for me. There is enough space for a few more days but I will need a new one shortly.

My current journal before I started filling it in October 2012: 704 beautiful pages
Beaten up and filled to bursting after almost a year.
Though I have plenty of paper at home, I took a trip to Michaels to scope out their paper selection. It had been at least a year since I'd made any paper purchases and with all my recent purging of stuff, I felt okay poking around the scrapbook section.

Can you imagine my surprise when I found some paper than I loved? Nevermind, I wasn't surprised at all. I almost always find at least one thing that I love. This time, I found four.

There was the superhero-themed paper with foil accents. Can I help it that I thought such designs would make the *perfect* training log? Didn't buy it.

There was also one called Trader Jane. I'm a sucker for bright colors, bold patters, and elephants. Didn't buy it.

What I did get were the two stacks pictured below. Together, they cost me as much as I would have paid for the other two stacks individually. And now I'm daydreaming and scheming about what my next journal will look like.

Bright, bold patterns, cows, apples, and flowers
I think I'll get a little fancier than normal with the covers and also cut everything to the slightly odd size of 6x12, instead of my typical 6x6 or 6x9. Maybe I'll make it a mere 500 pages this time. We shall see...

I haven't made any books in a while but I think this will be quite a fun project for woman with no weekend plans and a bedroom that's already clean.

I Was Going to Run Today

Instead, because my entire body is even more sore than it was yesterday, I had a nice strong dose of the Abbey. I also made sure I took a good number of movement breaks today during work even though I was tempted to sit slumped in my chair the entire day. I took my medal to work but I was too embarrassed to wear it.

And now I'm going to work on my photo tab and consider which domain name I would choose for myself if I were to choose a domain name.

Anyone out there have any advice about buying a domain name for a blog?
Have any of my readers had success switching from Blogger to WordPress? Words of wisdom?

What I Learned in 18 Miles

  • Even if your favorite shorts didn't chafe when you ran 16 miles in them, use some anti-chafe stuff, anyway. Better safe than open stinging wounds in the shower.
  • 84 degrees F and 90% humidity forces a person to slow way down... or puke... or faint. It's really up to each individual.
  • If your body tries to start crying in the last mile but can't produce any tears because you're so dehydrated, stop at the medical tent when you finish.
  • If you normally sweat heavily after finishing but aren't sweating at all in 84F, stop at the medical tent.
  • If you would usually seek food immediately after a run but completely forget it's even an option when you cross the line, stop at the medical tent.
  • There's a trend here... I should have stopped at the medical tent. Unfortunately, I didn't make that determination until 3 hours later, while doing a race rehash with my mother.
  • Take pictures of fun things even if they will be blurry because you don't want to stop running - it will help you remember you DID have fun.
  • If you schedule any extra days off around the race that aren't planned for travel, make sure at least one of them is the day after the race. Driving for 7 hours after running 18 hard miles is NOT ideal.

Official Race Recap: The 18.12 Challenge Edition

Before the race: I didn't realize we matched until I saw this photo.
I've been training for the 18.12 Challenge, my longest run/race all summer. The last month has been less like training and more like sporadically pounding out a few miles. Conveniently, I can blame my lackadaisical training on the heat and humidity. Whatever was to blame, though, I definitely felt the missing miles today.

A high school friend, Jenn, and I met up this morning to drive to the race. I had her packet so she was required to see me. :) My mom came with us so that she could take my car and pick us up after.

Because I'm such a hard core runner (ha!) and thought Jenn hadn't trained much (ha! ha!), I was worried she would die somewhere along the course or do better than me with very little training. Turns out she'd trained more than I thought, weighs about a hundred pounds less than I, and can pretty much do a consistent 10-minute mile. So, though we lined up together, we agreed that each of us would run our own race.

Though it was a new distance, I had a time goal in mind. Even with my less-than-perfect training of late, I thought I could pull off consistent 12-minute miles. And I did...for the first eight miles. In fact, my first mile was 11 minutes. I felt great. By mile 6, I was thinking, "I've so got this!" Even when I had to take a slightly longer walk break at mile 9, I was still sure that I would get going at full speed again.

Not so much.

By mile 10, my Nathan was completely empty. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the temperature that had started in the low 60s was heading quickly into the 70s. I realized that I'd forgotten my sunscreen and knew I was going to end up with a sunburn. The water stops were fewer and further apart than I expected. I felt like I was melting.

The race map: I followed the white line.
Around mile 11, I realized I wasn't going to be able to pick it up again and had to shift into beat-the-clock mode. There was a four hour time limit and I needed to finish. The thought of running that far and not making it to the finish was miserable.

There was a half marathon at the same time. As I passed the aid station right before their finish, they gave me water and said, "LAST AID STATION!" I could feel my eyes widen as I said, "Are you kidding me? I have four more miles and this is the last aid station?!" Their only reply was, "Oh, we don't know." Pro-tip: Don't tell an exhausted person in need of liquids that she is passing her last aid station. Just don't.

For the last 8 miles, my fingers were swollen like sausages. I've never had problems with leg cramps but, for the final two miles, my calves were cramping with almost every single step I ran. My sweat rate had dwindled to the point that I was concerned about my safety. I felt a little lightheaded a few times and somewhat pukey. Once some of these symptoms set in, I knew it was foolhardy to keep pushing myself to run as much as I'd like. So, I walked a lot in the last 5 miles. A LOT. And dumped water on myself several times.

For the last 7 miles, there was a woman in front of me, and I was determined not to lose her. Passing wasn't likely but following was good enough. And I did manage to keep her in sight until the last quarter mile, when the curves in the course made it impossible to see very far ahead.

I was able to jog that last bit... just barely. I was determined not to walk across the finish line. Immediately across the finish, there was a giant metal tub full of ice and bottles of water and Gatorade. I asked, "Can I put my hands in here?" The woman tending it said, "Absolutely!" It felt so good on my sausage fingers. I then proceeded to drink a bottle of water in about ten seconds and took another bottle of water and one of Gatorade along.

This race beat me up so badly that I couldn't even think straight to go to the food tent or stretch or get my traditional post-race selfie. Honestly, I probably should have gone to the medical tent but I definitely wasn't in my right mind.

So glad my mom was there to meet me. Jenn also waited long enough to see me finish though a friend was there to pick her up. I wanted to get some ice cream on my way home (carbs and protein ftw!) but the place wasn't open until 3. We weren't the only ones that had stopped either. So disappointing. We got Taco Bell instead but I only ate part of my meal AFTER taking a cold shower (an experience I might repeat tonight to soothe my sunburned shoulders).

I hope this doesn't sound too whiny. I'm definitely proud of myself but it was so hard. I'm feeling a greater incentive to do what I need to get fitter and trimmer so that it's not so difficult the next time. My mom's friend is trying to get her to do the Half Marathon next year. That's something to work on. :) And I have about 11 months before I attempt 26.2.